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One of the problems with maintaining a bloated, overpaid federal workforce?  The cost of all those nifty uniforms …

According to a story in The New York Times published just before Christmas, the federal government spends $1.5 billion at overseas factories alone procuring “everything from the royal blue shirts worn by airport security workers to the olive button-downs required for forest rangers and the camouflage pants sold to troops on military bases.”

So much for “buying American,” right?

Anyway, the government’s hypocrisy doesn’t end there, with the Times report detailing how the sweatshops churning out all that government fabric habitually violate basic human rights – employing child labor, padlocking fire escapes, beating employees and forcing them to soil themselves rather than take bathroom breaks.

Wait … you mean the very human rights violations U.S. President Barack Obama lectures us to keep in mind when we buy clothing made overseas?

Exactly …

To wit …

… even though the Obama administration has called on Western buyers to use their purchasing power to push for improved industry working conditions after several workplace disasters over the last 14 months, the American government has done little to adjust its own shopping habits.

Labor Department officials say that federal agencies have “zero tolerance” for using overseas plants that break local laws, but American government suppliers in countries including Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Pakistan and Vietnam show a pattern of legal violations and harsh working conditions, according to audits and interviews at factories.

Cue the Hollywood outrage, right?

Eh … not so much …

Following up on the Times story (at the other end of the ideological spectrum) is Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg – who notes another key component of this hypocrisy.

“Even worse, in the few instances in which the government is required to actually use U.S. labor, they just contract with prisons for less than $2 per hour using domestic slave labor,” Krieger writes. “Then, when questions start to get asked, government agencies actually go out of their way to keep the factory lists out of the public’s eye, even going so far as denying requests when pressed for information by members of Congress.”

Personally we don’t care if the federal government gets its uniforms from overseas sweatshops: Our beef is with the size of the federal workforce. Seriously, when your overseas tailoring bill is more than $1.5 billion, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ve grown a bit too big for your britches …

Still, the hypocrisy here is galling … or at least it would be galling if it weren’t so commonplace these days.